The Asserted & the Actual

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Technology has certainly made life convenient and comfortable ~ particularly online social media platforms. But the dangers of their misuse and abuse have always existed and increasingly we realize how very real these dangers and threats are ~ examples abound ~ especially in the form of post-truths and plain old-fashioned propaganda that are used unscrupulously and indiscriminately by individuals and groups of individuals from various sectors, not least in governance, media, politics and the corporate world. So, with the surfeit of information now on social media, we really don’t know what’s real and what’s “virtual” and who and what to believe. Take for instance, the disastrous attempts to disinvest/sell off the national carrier Air India. Aviation experts have long maintained that it was a monumental mistake to merge the erstwhile Indian Airlines with Air India ~ the losses began soon thereafter ~ not just in financial terms. Political interference and mismanagement, as in most Government Department, are some of the problems that beset Air India but the present Government isn’t talking about them while only focusing on the financial losses incurred ~ that too not actually projecting the real figures. Besides, whisper campaigns have been unleashed to misinform that the tax-payers’ money is being used to keep the national carrier afloat hence it must be rid of. Meanwhile, un-refereed figures are released to some media houses that are going to town echoing the Government’s sentiments. But what about Air India? What are its figures? Do they tally with those released by the Government to media houses? Noticeably the Maharaja plods on unremittingly ~ in fact, increasing its flights across the country and abroad. Doesn’t there seem to be a chasm between the asserted and the actual? Clearly, one of the dangers of social media is its ability to anesthetize our senses and reasoning ability and make us believe unquestioningly whatever we see on our television, computer and Smartphone screens. Now, we also know that governance-deficit is increasingly India’s primary obstacle at the national, regional and local levels despite the clearly laid-down government rules, norms, conventions and procedures for every act of governance. In fact, there are laid-down rules, norms, conventions and procedures for every act of managing both public and private sectors, which also include the media so one problem that arise is when people in responsible positions in Government resort to social media to communicate Government policies, programmes, project and schemes ignoring, by-passing and circumventing the Fourth Estate, which has long been acknowledged as the bridge between the Government and the people. For instance, it has been noticed that in the past few months, Nagaland’s top cop, the DGP, communicates only through social media the various information regarding the Police Department relevant specifically to the public. For one, majority of the public here are not connected to online platforms; secondly, it goes against the grain of the Fourth Estate to download matters from social media and publish them because documentary evidence is crucial for every bit of news and views published. So while Nagaland’s DGP may inform the best of his Department’s intentions on social media, he shows a perceptible disrespect to Nagaland’s Fourth Estate and in the process fails to inform his Department’s, and by extension the state Government’s, policies, programmes, project and schemes, including matters of public-police relations vis-à-vis policing in the state to the public at large. Yes, social media has become a very important tool of governance but it doesn’t and cannot substitute ~ and mustn’t be allowed to subvert, laid-down rules, norms, conventions and procedures of governance in any self-respecting democracy. That the state Government appears to be unaware of this ostensible disrespect, substitution and subversion by our top cop ~ wittingly or unwittingly ~ is alarming. Perhaps the state Government is a circuitous party to this ostensible disrespect, substitution and subversion of laid-down rules, norms, conventions and procedures of democratic governance or is IT-illiterate or just couldn’t be bothered about what’s going on under its very nose? Sure, social media is great but no country has ceded governance to social media as yet ~ and no country would, not in the near future, because of all institutions, governments are the most vulnerable to being victims of social media. Also, recall how social media is so efficiently and effectively used and misused to humble some of the world’s greatest in politics, economics, literature, movies, music and fashion? Social media is great but it also a two-edged sword.